Joliet West senior receives homecoming surprise
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org September 21, 2013 10:15PM
Joliet West Senior Alysha Vazquez (right), sophomore Naesha Arroyo (left) and Idanis Medina (center) react after a surprise visit from the girls' father, Ted Medina, of the U.S. Navy Task Force 10, in Joliet on Sep. 21, 2013. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Ti
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:54AM
Joliet West senior cheerleader Alysha Vazquez stood on the track with her family members before Joliet West’s homecoming football game Saturday against Sandburg.
“I really thought I was getting some sort of an award,” she said.
How about the award of a lifetime?
On military appreciation day, all servicemen and women were applauded. West athletic director Steve Millsaps then announced, “If all the members of the Medina family would look to your left ...”
There was Ted Medina, Alysha’s father, walking down the track behind the color guard. When his wife Idanis, daughter Naesha Arroyo (a sophomore band member at West) and youngest children Joshua and Gianina saw him, they screamed and raced to him.
Medina, a reserve in the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion, has been stationed in Afghanistan since December. His unit has been there helping an Army Special Operations Unit.
Millsaps and West cheerleading coach Amy DiForti knew he was coming home and would be at the game Saturday, but they kept it hush-hush.
The family’s touching group embrace lasted a few minutes.
“It was pretty tough to hold back the tears,” said Medina, who also shook hands with several Tigers football players who ran over to say “thank you.”
“I know I had water all over my face,” Alysha said. “Hands down, this is one of the greatest moments of my life.”
Medina loved the rest of his afternoon as well, especially halftime, with Alysha and Naesha performing their respective routines.
“They did great. It was too awesome,” Medina said.
He also enjoyed the game, though West came up short 36-28.
“I love football,” he said. “It’s the male soap opera. You never know what is going to happen.”
A 14-year veteran, Medina was on active duty the first eight years and in the reserves since 2007. He has six years remaining to serve.
He said he has to leave his family Sunday but may be back within a couple of weeks.
“My battalion is supposed to deploy, but I don’t think I’ll be going,” he said.
His family understands, whatever his country’s needs. A day such as Saturday helps erase a lot of loneliness.